When I was a child, my family moved around a lot. We lived in five houses in four states (if you ask Ricky, he’ll say six in five states, but he is eighteen months older). The state we lived in twice was the one I was born in that we returned to once again when I was ten, though in a different city. I moved out at seventeen, and went on to live in three different states and one foreign country, though again one state was a repeat.
It’s Ohio. I try to maintain some degree of anonymity, but I’ll admit this: I have lived in Ohio three separate times in my life. The place that most reminds me of my childhood, the one in which my most formative memories occurred, was the house in Ohio that we lived in from age ten to fifteen. Though my parents will argue that the state they live in now is my childhood home, they are wrong. I lived there for two years as a teenager and never went back other than visits, and honestly never had any real desire to even do that.
I remember when we moved there. We were all angry about moving again, though maybe Danny was too young to really understand. I remember when we looked at the house we would ultimately buy, and I remember that my parents made a big deal about me getting to choose my bedroom – I was the girl so I got first choice. They made it sound like quite an honor. Except one issue with that: I couldn’t choose the master bedroom, because it was theirs. And I couldn’t choose the biggest bedroom, because Jack and Danny had to share that one. So really, my choice was between a medium sized room and a smallish room. I took the small one, even though my mom tried to talk me out of it. I liked the idea of having a small space all to myself. I liked how cozy it was. And honestly, it was a matter of staging: my room was previously an office, and there were bookshelves in it when we looked at the house, and I loved the idea of being surrounded by books (nicely done, real estate agent!).
I won’t identify the city here, but think smallish rust belt city. We lived in the ‘rich’ neighborhood. If we lived in someplace like California and I said we lived in the rich neighborhood, you would all have a good idea (based on tv/magazines) about our opulent lifestyle. But this was a rural Ohio rustbelt ‘rich’ neighborhood – it basically meant we were middle class but luckier than the rest of the city. Nobody was rich, nobody was doing all that well, but we at least weren’t struggling.
The best thing about that house was the yard. We had a huge yard, and we were next to an empty lot that was a field with a creek. Across the street from the empty lot was another empty lot with the entrance to the woods. Although I haven’t been there since the early ’90s, I have looked on google maps. That field and creek are all gone now, and houses sit on the formerly vacant lots. The woods where my brothers and I played and hid and climbed trees have been mostly taken out. The pine trees that my parents planted on the edge of the property are gone, save one, but the maple tree we planted to honor our dead dog still remains.
The yard sloped steeply in the back, then was flat for a bit, became another small hill, then flat again. If there was a really good snow storm, we could sled from the top of the hill all the way down and across the vacant lot, though none of us were ever able to reach the creek. One year we tried sledding in a torrential rainstorm. It was awesome and fun, and the line from our sleds scarred the yard for years. Another year there was an ice storm that trapped us in the neighborhood for nearly a week. We put on our father’s golf shoes and had the best time playing around on the ice (until first me then Jack decided to try sledding on the ice at the neighbor’s – I think I cracked a rib slamming into the trees, and Jack hurt himself as well. Turns out it takes less than two seconds to go from the top of a hill to the bottom when riding a plastic disk on four inches of solid ice, and if your plan is to stop yourself by slamming screwdrivers into the ice, your plan will fail terribly and painfully).
I remember once looking around the house and thinking that it wasn’t just a house, it was my home, that one day I would go off to college but this was the place I would always come home to. I remember wondering how much would change, how much I would remember once I was a grown up and far away. But that never came to pass. Not the grown up thing, of course, but the coming home to that house. We moved when I was fifteen, and just about to start my junior year of high school. I never went back. I’ve never seen that house again in person, and I probably never will. It makes me sad to think about sometimes, but I’m happy with the life I have built in my adopted home town.